The vast majority of CTOs have been involved in at least one torturous IT project. The larger the project, the more potential for mismanagement, meaning big projects all too often run over budget, sail past crucial deadlines and cause huge stress to all involved.
We’ve identified five of the most common mistakes made by IT project managers under pressure, and key advice on how to avoid them:
Not being clear on priorities
It’s very rare for an IT department to just be running a single project. Most have a few on the go concurrently, which can lead to team members tackling less crucial projects while more challenging – and also more urgent – tasks are allowed to slide.
It’s down to the project manager to keep staff abreast of which tasks need to be prioritised, and to do so on a regular basis. Communication, as always, is king. Periodic updates on a project’s most critical tasks will save a huge amount of hassle further down the road.
Not holding an initial meeting
While it can be tempting just to dive into a heavy project with just email communication, an initial, face to face meeting with the whole team is invaluable. Expectations can be clearly defined, roles and responsibilities laid out and a sense of accountability instilled in every stakeholder. A couple of hours now can save you days of confused headaches in the long run.
Forgetting about people power
It’s all too easy for CTOs or project managers to zone in on time pressures, quality, budget and scope, while forgetting about the people who are actually going to do the work involved. As always, it’s essential to find a balance between managing effectively and micromanaging – you’ll reap the rewards in quality, results and minimal delays.
Again, it all comes down to communication. If everyone – from sponsors and suppliers to team members and other stakeholder – has a clear understanding of their roles, everyone will share a similar vision and damaging errors can be curtailed.
Getting carried away with changes
Most IT managers will have experienced the phenomenon known as ‘scope creep’ at some point in their careers. It’s when constant new requests and supplementary features start to impact a project’s vision, and is recognised as an insidious issue in project management. Before you know it, a whole project can be irretrievably compromised.
Combat the problem by asking the same questions for every new feature. Are they consistent with the project’s vision? Are they genuinely valuable or just suggested on a whim? If you can make sure you keep a determined eye on project objectives, you’ll save a lot of time later on.
Lack of pragmatism
While a clear project vision is essential, you’ll also want to ensure you remain pragmatic where necessary. Sometimes, in spite of your best efforts, something unforeseen happens or a project goes horribly wrong.
Yet again, timely communication can save the day before it gets to crisis point. If you keep stakeholders up to date with the information they need to make prompt decisions – budget changes, resource adjustments or deadline expectations – you’ve allowed time for a change of course that might just save a project.